Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers

Summertime cooking is often very simple cooking. After all, who wants to spend too much time in a hot kitchen or tending an outdoor grill?

Fortunately, nature makes delicious cooking so easy at this time of year. Among the season's finest produce are the so-called "vegetable fruits," ingredients we usually eat as vegetables even though botanists consider them part of the fruit family, including eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and the vegetable so many people consider summertime's finest: tomatoes.

A great sun-ripened tomato epitomizes the idea of vegetable fruits; it can be as rich, savory, and bracingly sharp as the first part of its name suggests, yet as delightfully sweet as the second. You really don't have to do much to it to create something delicious. Just drizzle with a little fruity extra-virgin olive oil and some flavorful vinegar, add salt and freshly ground pepper, and you're ready to feast.

I remember a time not long ago when summertime tomatoes meant just ordinary tomatoes the size of a small fist, along with big beefsteak tomatoes, little baskets of red cherry tomatoes, and maybe some Italian-style plum (also called Roma) tomatoes. Nowadays, however, a stroll through the farmers' market can give you the impression that local growers have struck the tomato mother lode, with specimens of every size, shape, color, pattern, and name on display, and varied flavor characteristics to go with them. For that, we can all thank so-called "heirloom" varieties, which had been long neglected because they weren't suited to large-scale commercial production, and were then revived in recent years by smaller growers.

Even some of my longtime favorites, little cherry tomatoes so sweet that I'm tempted to eat them like bonbons, offer their own world of variety. Not only are there the familiar spherical red ones but also yellow cherries of the same size and shape, plus miniature plum-shaped specimens the same size and color, and even smaller "grape" tomatoes.

And they're all so delicious that you don't really need to do any cooking.

The Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Skewers with Yellow Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette recipe I share here showcases how easy it is to make a spectacular summer tomato recipe. A variation on the classic Italian antipasto salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, it showcases red and yellow cherry tomatoes by arranging them on skewers along with chunks of cheese and whole basil leaves. To complement the skewers, I also include an easy vinaigrette made with yellow heirloom tomatoes, plus a simple salad of baby arugula leaves.

The result is an impressive Cherry Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers appetizer that takes minutes to prepare, yet makes a big impression whether plated as individual servings or presented on a platter. And, most refreshing of all in midsummer, there's no heat required!

Cherry Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers with Yellow Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette

    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Cherry Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers with Yellow Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette Ingredients


    1 large yellow or orange tomato or other attractively colored heirloom tomato, stemmed, cored, and coarsely chopped

    1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar

    1 ounce extra-virgin olive oil


    Freshly ground black pepper


    1 basket fresh red cherry tomatoes, about 1 pint, stemmed

    1 basket fresh yellow cherry tomatoes, about 1 pint, stemmed

    3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes about the size of the cherry tomatoes

    1 small bunch fresh basil leaves, separated, rinsed, and patted dry

    2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil


    2 cups organic baby arugula leaves, rinsed and patted dry

    1 lemon, juiced

    1-1/2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil

    1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese


    Freshly ground black pepper

    1/2 ounce aged balsamic vinegar

Cherry Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers with Yellow Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette Directions

    Up to several hours in advance, make the vinaigrette.

    Put the chopped yellow or orange tomato, the Sherry vinegar, and the 1 ounce of olive oil in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade.

    Process until smoothly pureed.

    Pour the puree through a sieve into a glass bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

    For the skewers, equally divide the colored cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cubes, and basil leaves on the skewers, alternating ingredients.

    Arrange the skewers in a single layer on a large platter or in a shallow baking dish and drizzle evenly with 2 ounces olive oil, turning the skewers to coat the ingredients evenly.

    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    To assemble the dish, put the arugula leaves in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, 1-1/2 ounces olive oil, grated Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.

    Spoon the vinaigrette on individual serving plates or a large serving platter.

    Mound the salad along one side of the vinaigrette.

    Arrange the skewers on top of the vinaigrette and drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar.

    Serve immediately.


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